Week One: Buying the Camper

“I’ll fix that!” my dad says loudly to the car. We all heard the gnarly sound of metal grinding metal. I look back and part of the siding of the trailer has connected with the metal poles that protects the gas towers from being rammed with incoming cars. I look at Ellen and Sara next to me, their faces haven’t moved, haven’t even twitched. I’m used to people being uptight, acting like the sky is falling at any slight inconvenience. The mellow demeanor of the car is a welcome reminder of why we’ve decided to become homesteaders in the first place. To find a simple calm in just letting things be. My dad exhibits this same metered calm.

“It’s okay, it would have been worse if one of us was driving,” Sara responds, unfettered. This doesn’t stop me from razzing the old man about his poor driving skills for the rest of the day. He knows I’m joking and we’re both happy to be able to tease each other and laugh at ourselves, warts and all.

We’d bumbled our way into the gas station, still only halfway to Sugar The Camper’s final resting place in Milan, MI. None of us, including my dad, had ever pulled a camper before. We had no idea that my grandpa’s seemingly giant, red, F-150 truck wasn’t technically big enough to pull the 27′ Wildwood camper easily. Sugar had resisted us all the way down the highway, gripping the wind, trying to pull us backwards with intermittent tugs on her tow hitch. It felt like being outwitted in a game of bumper cars. I thought for sure one of us would throw up before we reached the house.

Another issue that had become abundantly clear as we veered onto MI-14 was that the truck’s normal 15 MPG was being cut in half by the effort. We bled gas at an alarmingly quick pace all the way down the highway. Shelley, Sugar’s previous owner, had seemed to have utmost faith in our abilities to get Sugar home safely. She told us not to worry, she would drive just like a car, just remember to turn the opposite direction you want to go when backing up.

Sugar’s Battle Wound

It was with this possibly misguided confidence that we took the curve leading up to the gas pump without any of us even glancing behind as Sugar’s front end swung in and kissed the metal of the safety pole. Oh well, metal can be replaced. A few laughs, some razzing and about ten pounds of duct tape later, we were back on our way.

When we first saw Shelley’s picture on Facebook Marketplace the previous week, Sara had thought she looked like a Madonna album cover. She showed up that morning dressed for Labor Day on the lake, with blue overalls, cuffed above the ankles, an American flag shirt, American flag belt, and her normal sunny disposition. From the moment we’d met, I knew we’d get along right away. She was friendly and positive. She thought our idea of building a micro-farm was super cool.

As we pulled away that first day, my dad and I saw a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the back of her truck. The same one that is on the back of Sara’s red hatchback.

“See,” my dad said, pulling past the white truck, “That’s why you two get along so well.” As if the coexist bumper sticker is the symbol for us wild, eccentric, camper buying, nomad women. And maybe it is.

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